In one of the most shocking twists the show has produced to date, Star Trek: Discovery revealed the identity of the Terran Empire’s shadowy emperor and it has major effects on Star Trek Canon and the history of the Mirror Universe as a whole.
Fair warning, this video will delve into and discuss some heavy spoilers for this Sunday’s episode, “The Wolf Inside.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, click away now.
This past episode was a major one for the Mirror Universe. It was our first episode fully in this scenario, as the mid-season premiere did spend the first half-ish of the episode figuring out what was going on and what their plan should be.
“The Wolf Inside,” though, is full steam ahead into this Mirror Universe story arc, as the Discovery crew faces their first real challenges while posing undercover as their Terran Empire counterparts until they can find a way home.
This means very different things for different people. Captain Tilly commands the Discovery, Burnham is the captain of the Shenzhou, and Lorca is a prisoner of war, after leading an unsuccessful coup against the Emperor.
And just who is the emperor? Well, strap in, buckle up, and set phasers to STUNNED. The Emperor is none other than Philippa Georgiou. She made a literally explosive entrance, bombing the rebel base that Michael was trying to secretly evacuate into utter oblivion.
That’s right, the original captain of the Shenzhou, Burnham’s mentor and really an adopted mother figure for the protagonist is the Terran Empire’s big bad. She’s dead in our universe, one of the first casualties of the war with the Klingons, but clearly alive definitely more evil in the Mirror Universe.
How did she become Emperor? We don’t quite know yet, but I’m sure more will be revealed in this Sunday’s episode, aptly titled “Vaulting Ambition,” which sees Burnham and her unresolved issues about Captain Georgiou’s death coming face to face with the Emperor on her flagship.
It’s entirely likely that Emperor Georgiou just climbed the ladder ruthlessly. I mean, this is a society prizing strength above all else and encouraging betrayal and backstabbing as a kind of survival of the fittest / only as strong as our weakest link philosophy.
It’s also very possible that she had help from Mirror Burnham in ascending to the throne. If Burnham served under Georgiou on the Shenzhou in this universe too, it’s likely they were somewhat close. As Michael became Captain after Georgiou won the throne, that command might have been a prize awarded for her assistance. Also, By the fact that Burnham is invited onto the Emperor’s ship for a meal, as seen in the trailer for next episode, we can assume they’re at least moderately close. That seems like an honor that wouldn’t be bestowed on just any captain.
But beyond the twist itself, the reveal is shocking for another reason: it’s impact on established Star Trek canon.
Many fans were confused and concerned when learning that the show would be set in the original Prime timeline, and not the timeline of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot films. Now, the show would have to exist around 5 different established shows, 10 films, and other books and such.
Specifically, this potentially creates a canonical issue with the events between Star Trek: Enterprise, and The Original Series itself.
You see, in Enterprise’s Mirror Universe episodes, centered around the futuristic USS Defiant falling into the hands of the Mirror Universe’s Captain Archer, and then later Lt. Hoshi Sato, who used the ship to overthrow the emperor and become Empress herself.
As Enterprise was the last Star Trek series to air before Discovery, there was never any live-action fill-in for what happened between Sato taking the throne and the events of the Original series episode “Mirror, Mirror.”
However, there was a book written in 2009 that filled in the events, Glass Empires, telling the story of the Terran Empire directly after Sato took the throne, then after the events of Mirror, Mirror, as Mirror Spock became Emperor, and lastly in the Next Generation time period, when the Empire had fallen.
Specifically, when Spock is setting about taking control of the Empire as a means to reform it and hopefully one day bring about the Federation, we learn that the ruler of the Empire in that time period was not Emperor Georgiou, but Empress Sato III, a genetic clone of the original Sato.
The book itself however is non-canonical, officially confirmed by the fact that we now know that Sato III was not Empress by the time of the Original Series, or at least that Emperor Georgiou temporarily disrupted that line.
For more concrete details, though, we’ll just have to wait until this week’s episode.